The term Tense is used to refer to any of the twelve different verb constructions that result when the three logical time divisions (present, past, and future) are integrated with the four aspects of verb.
Aspect refers to the state of action of a verb. There are four types of verb aspect:
What then are Verb Tenses?
Verb Tenses therefore refer to any of the form of a verbOpens in new window that may be used to show the time of the action or an event or state of being expressed by the verb.
There are three main verb tenses in English: present, past and future. These tenses tell us how an action relates to the flow of time.
The present, past and future tenses are divided into four aspects: the simple, progressive, perfect and perfect progressive. Thus, English has 12 verb tenses.
English verb tenses give many details about time and action such as:
We are going to give examples of all 12 verb tenses, with illustrations in the chart below, using the first-person singular form of sing.
Note that to form other verb tenses other than the first-person singular form, you have to add a form of have, be or will in front of the main verb. These are called helping, or auxiliary verbsOpens in new window.
|Simple Aspect||Progressive Aspect||Perfect Aspect||Perfect–progressive Aspect|
|Present||We sing||We are singing||We have sung||We have been singing|
|Past||We sang||We were singing||We had sung||We had been singing|
|Future||We will sing||We will be singing||We will have sung||We will have been singing|
Emphasis on the Three Kinds of Tenses
1. Present Tense
The Present TenseOpens in new window is a form of verb that indicates action that is happening at the moment or at the time of speaking. [action that happens now]
The most confusing feature of the present tense for learners of English is that the simple present tenseOpens in new window does not really indicate present time actions. Its main expressions include:
2. The Past Tense
The Past TenseOpens in new window is a form of verb that indicates action that took place in the past. The simple pastOpens in new window, being one of the aspects of English past tense, describes action that was completed before the present moment in time—event or action that has already taken place.
The past tense can refer to a single point in past time, as:
3. The Past Tense
The Future TenseOpens in new window is that aspect of verbs that indicate actions that will happen in future time. The simple future tenseOpens in new window, being one of the aspects of future tense, consists of the helping verb will, followed by the base form of the main verb and indicate an action that will happen in the future.
Each of these three kinds of tenses (the present, past and future tenses) has four aspects: